This Mountains and Gorges of Crete section hopes to give you a flavour of the beauty of this wonderful Greek Island.
You can sit and stare in wonder at these Mountains and Gorges of Crete – or get hiking, trekking, walking, cycling or climbing with this interesting, entertaining and unfussy Guide. There are many ways to enjoy the beautiful Greek Island of Crete...
...stretching out on a sandy beach, soaking up the sun, swimming, snorkelling, wining and dining, dancing the night away, taking a boat trip to watch the dolphins, visiting museums stuffed with Minoan archaeological finds, checking out the actual locations of Greek mythology, discovering the warmth of the Cretan people etc etc.
Well you can have all that and much, much more...
If you are a relatively healthy and active person, the most memorable and enjoyable experiences can be found by exploring the island during long walks or hikes. The fabulous flora and fauna of Crete is unique and the scenery breathtakingly stunning and can really be appreciated while out walking.
For the more adventurous there are so many opportunities to explore the great gorges and mountains in Crete. Trekking, caving, mountaineering, cycling, climbing and hiking through the mountain ranges, gorges, caves and plateaux is a challenging yet rewarding way to discover Crete and all her beauties.
We’ll gather all the information that you will need as we get first hand experience and reports from the various magnificent mountains and awe inspiring gorges of Crete.
The Greek Island of Crete is the most mountainous island of Europe with a high mountain range crossing it from West to East, formed by three different groups of mountains.
The White Mountains
The White Mountains or Lefka Ori dominate the landscape of west Crete. They are called White Mountains not because they are covered in snow until late in the spring, but because the sun reflected on the limestone summits gives the appearance of whiteness. The White Mountains are comprised of three groups of mountains that are loosely identified as the eastern, central and western ranges. The highest summit is Pachnes (2453m); a mere three metres lower than the highest peak on Crete, Psiloritis. There are 111 peaks over 1500m high making the White Mountains an attractive destination for many walkers, hikers and climbers.
The White Mountains also have about 50 gorges, the most famous being the Samaria Gorge. Another characteristic of the White Mountains are the high plateaux in the centre of the mountains. The best known is the plateau of Omalos which is a round plain surrounded by mountains, at an altitude of 1100m.
Mount Ida or Psiloritis is a single elongated mountain mass whose highest peak is Timios Stavros (2456m) and is the highest point in Crete. West of Knossos and dominating the landscape of central Crete, Mount Ida is just 3m higher than Pachnes, the highest summit of the White Mountains. Amongst the Mount Ida mountain range are numerous caves, gorges and plateaux.
Supposedly Mount Ida was where Zeus grew up. On its slopes is the Ideon Andron or Zeus Cave, just a 15 minute walk from Nida Plateau where he was said to be raised by nymphs. Other tales from Greek mythology relate how Minos, the famous king of Crete, himself a son of Zeus, came every nine years to this cave to listen to his father and seek his help in formulating laws.
The Dikti Mountains
In east Crete is Dikti or the Lassithi Mountains, a range with many peaks, the highest being Spathi at 2148m. The Mount Dikti range and the Lassithi Plateau, which spreads out between the peaks is home to many myths and legends of Greek mythology. On the northern slopes of the Dikti mountain range is the Psychro Cave, also known as Dikteon Andron where Zeus was reputedly born, later to be raised by nymphs at Mount Ida.
Along with the three main mountain ranges of Crete there are two large mountain ranges in the prefecture of Sitia in the far eastern part of Crete.
There are several wonderful gorges to explore on the Greek island of Crete. If you enjoy flora and fauna, walking, trekking and hiking you’ll love visiting Crete. There are many gorges to explore around the Island.
The most impressive of all the gorges of Crete is the famous Samaria Gorge in the Chania region of West Crete. The Samaria Gorge is the longest in Europe, some 18 km and renowned for its majestic beauty. Hiking down the gorge is permitted from May to the end of October, depending on the weather.
For a really good insight, please click this link to read about our personal experience Walking Samaria Gorge.
Imbros Gorge (also known as Faragi Imbrou) is a 11km long canyon located near Hora Sfakion in the Hania region of West Crete. This is a very pleasant and relatively easy walks and, after Samaria, attracts the largest number of tourists. This is one of the most enjoyable and beautiful gorge walks in Crete with its narrow canyons and rich flora and fauna.
Imbros Gorge was the escape route for thousands of Allied troops retreating from the north of the island following the Battle of Crete in 1941 and heading for Chora Sfakion for evacuation to Egypt.
Agia Irini Gorge
The Agia Irini Gorge (also known as Ayia Irini) is a section of the world famous E4 European Walking Path and is much less crowded than the Samaria Gorge and thus more appealing to some. We walked the Agia Irini Gorge in mid October 2007 and really enjoyed it
Click here for our own very personal account of walking Agia Irini Gorge!
The Agia Irini Gorge is close to the Samaria Gorge and is located at the White Mountains of Chania in West Crete. The gorge itself is about 7km long and is simply stunning.
Butterfly Gorge begins high up on the road to Orino and ends at Koutsouras National Park in the Lassithi region of Crete close to the village of Makriyialos. The walk actually takes you through a valley with abandoned Cretan villages and is named Butterfly Gorge because of huge number of butterflies to be found there.
Pefki Gorge begins just outside the village of Pefki on the road to Agios Stephanos and ends at Aspros Potamos. Again the Pefki Gorge is found in the Lasithi region of East Crete close to the village of Makrigialos. The gentle walk will lead you along ancient donkey tracks through olive groves through the impressive gorge steeped on either side by 200 metres of vertical cliffs.
Moni Kapsa Gorge begins at the village of Kato Pervolakia and ends at the Monastery of Kapsa. This gorge is the deepest of all three of the gorges in the Lasithi region of East Crete close to the village of Makrigialos and is undoubtedly the most challenging but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts as the scenery is simply stunning and contains some of the richest variety of natural fauna in the region.
The Gorge of Zakros
Zakros marks the very end of the the long distance walking route named the E4 path, which is throughout Europe and goes through the Gorge of Zakros. It is found at the far east of the Crete in the Lasithi region.
The Gorge of Zakros also named the Gorge of the Dead is of outstanding beauty, with large caves in its walls. In those caves were discovered tombs from the Minoan period, and finds of great archaeological importance, hence the name of Gorge of the Dead.
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